Home Gym Search Supplier Search Products Fitness Info Business Contact Us
   Profiled Gyms   Special Offers   Advertise with us     List your gym     List your trainers  

Gyms.co.nz Fit Tips

Back To Basics?

Is just getting out of bed in the morning becoming a painful and stressful experience?  Do you dread going to work due to the dull and nagging pain in your lower back?  Is back ache preventing you from leading the active life that you desire? 80% of people suffer from some form of back problems at one time during their life.  Your back is critical in everyday movements so the slightest problem in this area can at best be frustrating and annoying, and at worst be debilitating.

Back problems come from a combination of either genetic inheritance and the use & abuse of your back.  I myself was diagnosed with a condition called Scheurmann's disease during my late teens which was attributed with causing a large number of back complaints that I encountered during this time.  This disease is usually passed down genetically, so thanks Mum and Dad!

However, the majority of back complaints are caused by the use and abuse of your back.  So what do we mean by use and abuse?  The abuse of your back causing back injuries or complaints can fall into a number of areas.  It might include:

Heavy lifting - forward bending, turning or rotation while carrying weighted objects.
Long hours on your feet - while at work or in another environment.
Sustained Bad Posture - Maintaining a poor posture position for a prolonged period of time, for example, sitting slouched at a computer all day.
Working on surfaces with an unconventional height.

The bad news for those of you that may develop a bad back by any of the above means is that 60% of you will suffer a recurrence within the following year.  However, don't despair as there are a number of steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of developing or reaggravating back problems. 

There are a series of predisposing factors to the development of back pain and by reducing the influence of these factors you can significantly reduce the probability you will become one of the  suffering majority.  So what are the predisposing factors contributing to back ache?

1.  Weak Abdominal Muscles.
2.  General Muscle Tension.
3.  Depression, Emotional Distress.
4.  Stress - Emotional and Physical.
5.  Excess Weight.
6.  Not Enough Exercise.
7.  Job Dissatisfaction.
8.  Job Ergonomics.

How can you address these issues?  There are a large number of ways that these issues can be addressed.  It is easy to say "a balanced lifestyle" is what you need, however what does that really mean?  And who really does have a "balanced" life?  So here are a couple of recommendations that can reduce the likelihood of back pain.

Our recommendations...

1.  Have a qualified fitness professional design you a fitness programme.  A programme specifically tailored to meet your needs will assist you in a number of the areas above.  It can increase your core (or abdominal) strength, it will assist in reducing emotional stress and depression levels, can assist in decreasing your weight as well as increasing the strength of your back. 
2.   Analyse Your Diet.  Diet can be a large contributing factor to your weight gain, but also to your psychological state.  If necessary talk to a nutritionist about your current eating habits.  You should aim to  eat 5-6 servings or fruit and veges per day, drink 8 glasses of water, and also eat regular small healthy snacks / meals during the day rather than 2 - 3 large meals.  Also, never skip breakfast!  For further information on eating habits refer to our nutrition articles and meal plans on this website.
3.   Start a Yoga Class, Pilates Class or get a regular massage.  All of these options are a great way to relieve stress and general muscle tension.  Try it, you will be happy you did.
4.   Get a new job!!  If you really hate your job or it stresses you out too then perhaps its time to check out the papers for a new one!

However, despite making exercise and healthy living a part of your life as discussed in our recommendations, sure enough some of your may develop back pain at some stage in your life.    Remember, if pain persists - see your local Doctor, Physio or Chiropractor!

Swiss Ball Training Replacement or Supplement?

If you step into most gyms throughout New Zealand and Australia you will notice in the corner of the room a bunch of large inflatable balls that look like they belong down at the beach rather than in a fitness centre.  Commonly known as "Swiss balls" after their place of origin, these training apparatus have seen widespread popularity throughout NZ and Australia and indeed many parts of the world.

However, is the over-use of Swiss balls by trainers potentially short changing their clients in terms of getting the results that they are after?

Admittedly Swiss balls are a fantastic way to train your core musculature (abs and lower back) and surrounding stabilizer muscles, and they are certainly a novel new approach to training.  They are also very useful when you have limited access to fitness equipment, such as in your own home or workplace.  In fact most parts of your body can be trained in some way using these balls.  However, many trainers may actually be going overboard with the use of Swiss balls which can result in reducing the likelihood of achieving results on your programme.

In some cases trainers give up exercises such as squats, and other more intensive training methods in favour of some cute Swiss Ball movement that they have read about in a magazine.  It may seem impressive, but are you going to get the same return on investment with your training, or is all that time spent balancing your Swiss ball just reducing the training time (and intensity) you could be completing on more conventional exercises? 

In fact many trainers even advocate the use of Swiss Balls for simple exercises such as stretching major body parts.  While it may look clever to your client is it not just complicating their training that little bit further?  For those that are particularly new to exercise we want to keep it as simple as possible don't we?

Now I am not saying that Swiss Balls are not a good exercise tool,  quite the contrary in fact.  I think that they are very good for working your core strength and stabilizers.  I also believe that they can be a fantastic tool for training other parts of the body at certain times and locations.  However, what I am warning about is fitness professionals getting carried away with the inclusion of Swiss Ball exercises in a routine which may detract from the effectiveness of a workout.